THE BEHOLDER by Anna Bright


From the "Beholder" series, volume 1
Age Range: 12 - 18
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A naïve young noblewoman sails from the New World into several European fairy tales.

Selah has spent her sheltered life as the heiress to Potomac, a small territory in an alternate-timeline America, reading fairy tales and chastely longing for Peter, a childhood friend, oblivious to the political intrigues that surround her. But when Peter refuses her proposal, her conniving stepmother sends her on a sudden mission to Europe to court more politically useful romantic connections. Selah boards the Beholder armed with a book of fairy tales and the blessings of her godmother, a nun—and soon encounters Arthurian legend, Nordic mythology, Baba Yaga, and other fairy-tale motifs aplenty. An array of charming princes provide swooningly romantic moments, and Selah’s attraction to multiple boys is written as normal, not shameful. Selah is white, and Peter and many secondary characters are racially diverse, but the book’s idealized multiculturalism is severely undercut by erasure of the Indigenous population in Potomac, an oversight that makes Selah’s criticism of other land-hungry empires ring hollow. Winking nods to various tales and their tellers—Selah’s entourage includes Homer, Perrault, Yasumaro, and Lang, to name a few—are sometimes twee but always entertaining. Selah is at first tiresomely naïve and sugar-sweet but begins to rise into maturity and complexity that, the cliffhanger ending suggests, will be explored more thoroughly in a sequel.

A selection box of candy-sweet fairy-tale tropes. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 4th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-284542-9
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2019


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